Change UGH! to AHA! Using the 5 Whys

“I can’t!” Or “I hate this” or even “I suck” 

Sound familiar?

Do you declare these statements, or similar, while you practice?

Stop yourself. Back up a little bit and ask yourself why? 

Often, our emotions get the best of us. Music is an emotional experience for both the player and often the listener. Acknowledge and bypass the emotional breakdown by using tools such as the the five whys method created by the business community. According to Mike Maples, partner at the venture capital firm, Floodgate, “What we need are methods to counteract our ignorance. The five whys is a good way of slowing down and improving decision lets me get into a mental space about “what” is going right or wrong ranger than “who” is right or wrong.”

This impactful approach can used during your personal practice time.  Move the “who (I)” to “what”  fingers, eyes, ears, breath, brain, focus, music fundamentals and move the attention from “Ugh!” “I hate this” and “I suck” to moments of success.








Here are a few examples:

Problem: I suck! - why?

Because I can’t play this section - why?

Because I keep missing this note- why?

Because I don’t know the pattern - why?

Because I don’t know the key - why?

Because I haven’t taken the time to work on the scale. 

Solution: Figure out the scale(s) then practice scales surrounding the key (for example: Major/ minor, thirds, and of course the given pattern) using different articulations AND rhythms in small sections.

Problem: I hate high notes! - why?

I have trouble getting the high notes out - why?

I am not pushing enough air - why?

I am scared of pushing too much air - why?

Out of fear of playing out of tune. why?

I don’t know how to play in tune.

Solution: Practice isolating the air and lip direction with a tuner. 

Problem: Ugh! I can’t get through this run! - why?

I am making too many mistakes- why?

I can’t see the patterns? why?

I can’t see all of the notes - why?

There are too many accidentals - why? Or why are there so many accidentals?

The pattern repeats in different keys!

Solution: Take a moment to identify the keys. Separate into chunks, slow the passage down and work your way back up to the tempo. (See situation #1 as well!)

The next time you find yourself in a rut, try this technique and pull yourself out of your rut! There may be several reasons you are struggling with a section. It’s okay! Try the exercise from different angles. Often, there it is one small thing getting in the way.

Additional Resources:
Download a FREE template to figure out why here

Mike Maples excerpt from The Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris 

Melissa Grey